Want to get your people to work together better? See the benefits of collaboration management and learn how you can create a more cohesive team.
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The word “potluck” dates back to Shakespearean times, originally meaning a meal with no planned menu. Since then, it has evolved to mean a meal where every guest pitches in, each contributing a different dish, giving you everything from baba ganoush as an appetizer to homemade cheesecake for dessert.
If you’ve ever hosted or been part of a potluck, you know that some planning still has to happen beforehand: Someone needs to be in charge to make sure half the guests don’t just end up bringing cookies (unless you like dessert for your main course).
Just like a potluck host is in charge of organizing and managing the meal, team leaders and people managers are responsible for helping their teams collaborate. Because while collaborative teams perform better, people don’t always instinctively know the best way to work together.
That’s why leaders need to use management techniques that get people working together more effectively–so you can combine individual strengths to make a whole team that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
In this article, you’ll find out just what collaboration management is, learn the benefits and challenges of fostering workplace collaboration, and discover how you can help your employees to communicate and cooperate with each other.
Get your people working together better.
Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace helps teams share ideas and work together in interactive rooms that save your work.
What is collaboration management?
Collaboration management means helping employees work together better. It’s the process of building a unified team by creating an inclusive culture and giving your employees the tools and support they need to communicate and cooperate effectively.
Collaboration management requires leaders to promote open communication, define project objectives, assign tasks, and coordinate roles to make sure everyone is able to work together cohesively.
Benefits of collaboration management
At a well-organized potluck, each guest takes care of a single dish and comes together to provide a balanced, tasty meal with enough appetizers, mains, and desserts for everyone to enjoy. And well-organized teams have balanced workloads, with each employee in charge of tasks that play to their strengths. Here are some more ways organizations benefit from effective collaboration.
Greater sense of purpose and ownership
Imagine showing up to a potluck and only eating the dish you brought. Boring, right? When everyone’s working in silos, it can be hard to see how your work contributes to the bigger picture. But when you get people to collaborate, they understand they’re part of a greater goal, which helps them see their purpose.
As 70% of employees feel their purpose is defined by their work, finding ways to help them feel fulfilled by what they do is essential. Plus, when your people are aware of their key role in achieving a common goal, they’ll take more ownership in the workflow or project.
When employees feel lonely in their work environment, they’re more likely to miss work because of stress or even leave their company, research has found. And with 15% of remote workers reporting feeling lonely, you need to find a way to strengthen relationships on your team and show your people they're part of a supportive team—especially when they can’t get together in person.
Creating a collaborative environment helps your team members feel connected because they know they have coworkers who are there to help and support them. And when you encourage and empower your people to work together, they’re less likely to feel isolated from the rest of their team.
Ashley Russo, founder and president of ASR Media, says her team has “been able to significantly improve on-time delivery by bringing various departments together to come up with solutions” thanks to collaboration.
That’s because teamwork helps combat productivity killers, from writer’s block to decision paralysis. When you get multiple team members’ input on an issue, it’s easier to move forwards toward a solution.
Challenges with creating collaborative teams
Organizing a potluck usually just involves creating a sign-up sheet or WhatsApp group where everyone can see what people are bringing to avoid a table full of assorted pasta salads. But creating a successful team is a bit more complicated, as there are some unique challenges that come with it.
Different backgrounds and experience
All your team members have different work experiences and styles, so while some may be used to working on a team, others may feel more comfortable flying solo. That’s not to say collaborative work can’t be a good fit for them—you just have to take these differences into consideration.
Be aware of this when promoting collaboration at your organization and don’t force teamwork on your people. You should let them ease into it if they’re not used to working in a highly collaborative environment.
Hierarchies between people
On the majority of teams, there’s some sort of hierarchy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and having different levels of leadership is often the best way to organize a team. But be aware: sometimes rigid organizational structures can pose blockers to collaboration.
New hires or employees in entry-level positions may not feel comfortable working directly with higher-level team members. To get around this, be sure to foster an open and inclusive culture that makes everyone feel like a valued member of your team.
Lacking the right resources
Many remote or hybrid teams don’t have the right tools to mimic in-person connections and enable spontaneous interactions, making it hard to foster collaboration and communication. And even if you’re an in-person team, having employees at multiple locations can mean they rarely get to collaborate or work together.
To get around this, you can use a collaborative digital workspace like Switchboard, which makes space for those seamless or spontaneous interactions that are necessary to create a collaborative environment and cohesive team.
How to create a collaborative team
Creating a cohesive team that works together well doesn’t happen overnight. But by following these steps, you can get your team members to connect and cooperate—and get more satisfied, productive employees.
Create a sense of community
It would feel pretty weird to coordinate a potluck with a group of strangers. Similarly, you can’t expect your people to collaborate if they don’t know each other. As mentioned above, different backgrounds and experiences can pose challenges to collaboration, but there are fixes for these.
One is by creating a sense of community on your team to build trust and empathy among employees. There are a number of ways to create this type of inclusive company culture:
- Plan team events: It can be hard to really get to know someone if you only interact with them in a business setting, so plan activities for your team to unwind and get to know each other better on a personal level. For in-person teams, that could be monthly trivia nights, or for remote teams, organize regular online office games. If you’re using Switchboard, you can set up a dedicated, persistent games room to get together for team-building activities or a bit of light relief.
- Create a “camera on” culture: It’s so easy for people to disengage when they’re not sitting in front of their coworkers, and participating in meetings where no one turns the camera on is a great way to feel disconnected. While there are some times an employee will need to go camera-off, encourage your team to show their faces during online meetings (and lead by example).
- Help employees get to know each other: Especially on teams that don’t work together in person, employees still may not feel they know their coworkers, even if they attend your team building activities and switch their cameras on during meetings. Create opportunities for your people to connect, like randomly paired coffee chats, shared interest slack channels, or in a dedicated “water cooler” room in Switchboard.
When your employees feel they actually know each other, it will be easier for them to work as a team and truly support one another. They’re also more likely to feel accountable to each other, which boosts teamwork.
A McKinsey study found that while 85% of executives and upper managers find purpose in their work, 85% of frontline managers and employees don’t feel that way or aren’t sure. There’s a big discrepancy there, and if you’re not inspiring ownership for everyone on your team, some of your key employees are missing out.
Show everyone that their individual work contributes to a larger goal. In the words of Andrea Galvez, vice president of client success and membership at Financial Health Network, the key here is “getting everybody to agree that we can't be successful unless we're all successful.”
Create a RACI chart or “responsibility assignment matrix,” and use project management software to clearly define everyone’s roles in a project. This helps everyone understand their individual responsibilities and see how their tasks contribute to a larger goal.
That way, your entire team understands their part in the progress and success of a project, rather than feeling like their work doesn't matter. By creating this sense of ownership at every level in your organization, you motivate all members of your team to contribute towards your larger goal, from your new customer support agent to your seasoned head of sales.
Involve the whole team in problem-solving
Poor cross-team collaboration is cited as the number one problem in project management today. So if you want everyone to feel what they do matters, make sure to include everyone in your problem-solving and brainstorming.
“When teams feel their ideas are truly heard and considered, a culture of collaboration happens. This safe space is instrumental in coming up with innovations, new ideas, and improved processes," says Ashley Russo.
So if your marketing team is working on implementing a new campaign, encourage other team members from sales or development to share their ideas and input. Salespeople will have great insights about your ICP and what they want, and front-end engineers will have plenty to say about the design and functionality of the banner ads and graphics you’re creating.
While it may seem counterintuitive to bring in employees from numerous teams for an operations issue, showing everyone they have something valuable to contribute will make them feel more involved—and willing and eager to contribute.
And these collaborative efforts don’t just help your team feel included. They can help you come up with better, more unique solutions you may not have been able to reach without the work of diverse viewpoints and expertise.
Lead by example
If you don’t walk the walk, you’ll never have successful collaboration in your organization. Because if employees don’t see their leaders working with the rest of the team or fostering a sense of community, why would they do that themselves?
Ashley Russo shares some tips on how you can create an environment that promotes teamwork and open communication:
- Listen first. Present everything as an opportunity, then ask a question (even if you think you know the answer or solution) and wait for everyone to share their input.
- Never criticize an idea, ever. Find the value in it and redirect the conversation as needed. Sometimes it takes many small ideas woven together to find the right solution, and every person should feel valued for their contribution.
- Admit when you’re wrong. Not every idea you have is going to be a good one, so encourage your team to give their honest feedback on your proposals. And when they come up with a better idea than yours, give credit where credit is due. Let’s say you’re head of marketing at a software startup and you have a proposal to diversify your offering. When you discuss it with the team, one of your junior members spots a flaw in your ideas and contributes an alternative. Rather than shutting them down to save your ego, thank them for their insights, change the proposal, and shout them out publicly.
- Let your team meet without you. Create small groups that have ownership of various areas, and challenge them to meet on their own and come up with solutions. They will own their decisions 100% if they participate in finding the solutions.
And make it clear your team’s success is more important than your success as a leader: “A big thing here is understanding or being willing to admit that the team's success or the organization’s success is more important than your own personal success, especially as leaders of cross-functional teams,” says Andrea Galvez.
By promoting open communication and putting your team before yourself, you’ll create a greater sense of trust among employees and encourage them to work together towards a common goal.
Give your team the tools they need
No matter how great your company culture is or how well of an example you set, your team won’t be able to work together well without the right resources. This is especially true for remote and hybrid teams, or even in-person organizations with employees spread across offices.
Use internal collaboration tools to make it easy for employees to communicate, interact, and brainstorm together. Switchboard, for example, is a collaborative digital workspace that lets you and your team work together on documents and browser-based apps inside a virtual room—without having to share your screen.
Switchboard lets you create cloud-based virtual rooms for project work, brainstorming, and hosting scheduled or spontaneous meetings with your team. Throughout the session, you can explore any file in the room, moving around and viewing whatever you want without getting in the way of others.
Its persistent, intuitive rooms help you foster team connection, collaboration, and productivity. That’s because it lets you communicate in real time with video, audio, and chat, and you can work side-by-side allowing everyone to scroll, browse, and edit the same document or file at the same time.
Collaboration management: For a team that’s better than the sum of its parts
A mismanaged potluck can lead to a table full of deviled eggs and little else. No one wants that. And without managing collaboration on your team, you can get unengaged employees, siloed work, and lower productivity.
Getting everyone to work together is like a well-organized potluck: When everyone brings their own special dish to the table, you get all the best elements of your team in one place. You can achieve this on your team by creating a collaborative environment based on close relationships that includes giving them the right tools and involving the whole team in problem-solving. Also, by leading by example and encouraging ownership. Use these techniques to get your people collaborating better, help them feel more connected, and play to each employee’s individual strengths.
And be sure to use a collaborative workspace like Switchboard to make it easier for your people to connect when they can’t get together. Its intuitive, persistent rooms give them a designated, interactive space for brainstorms, project work, meetings, and more and an engaging multiplayer experience where everyone can contribute.
Get your people working together better.
Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace helps teams share ideas and work together in interactive, persistent rooms that save your work.
Frequently asked questions about collaboration management
Why is collaborative management important?
Collaborative management is important for getting teams to work together well. That’s because getting employees to collaborate has a range of benefits, including creating a greater sense of purpose and ownership, strengthening relationships, and improving productivity.